Family Values Rank High In Dream Houses
The American Dream is on steroids
Editor's note: Like everything in American culture, houses have blown up to Hummer-sized proportions. Eight-figure prices and 10,000-square-foot homes are becoming the norm in the luxury housing market, which is booming. In this three-part series, we explore the changing nature of the American Dream, what people are looking for in the ideal home and our obsession with all things big.
Ask a dozen people about their dream houses, and you'll get a dozen answers – with one thing in common: most folks' dream houses have space for family activities. Most also have a taste for luxury.
"My dream house would be in the country, with log construction," said Kate Schroeder, who lives in Oakland, Calif. "I'm an artist, so I would want a studio. There has to be space for my children and grandchildren to visit."
Schroeder's dream house wasn't entirely low-key. She said she would like granite countertops, marmoleum flooring, a meditation garden and a brook. The artist also would like a kiln and woodworking shop in her dream home. Still, her demands were relatively modest compared to the luxury homes of today.
America's luxury housing is on steroids, with 10,000-square-foot homes and eight-figure prices becoming commonplace. In the luxury market, it's not about keeping up with the Joneses, building a two-story ranch and putting up a white picket fence. The stakes are higher and the fences are made of Australian jara. Now it's more about keeping up with the high-tech moguls next door: the Bill Gateses and the Larry Ellisons.
Rick Elliott, a vice president at BNY Mortgage, shared Schroeder's high priority on family. Elliott said he didn't have to use his imagination to come up with a dream house. He's living in it.
"I already have my dream house," the New Yorker said. "It's a five-bedroom Colonial with a pool, great neighbors, great schools. Our kids have wonderful friends. There's a wraparound porch, a back deck and a nice garden."
According to industry experts, many peoples' dream houses involve both materialistic and family values.
"There are so many things pulling families apart. This (the home) is a way to bring families together," said Kathryn Robyn, co-author of "The Emotional House," a how-to book about the emotional side of housing. "We don't have time any more. We want to be with our family as much as we can. We can watch a movie together at home, so we get a home theater."
Echoing the family theme, Perrin Kliot of Orinda, Calif., said he would like a view of the hills, a pool – and a flat yard for his 2-year-old son to play in.
Kliot did allow himself vaulted ceilings and "lots of room" in the house, though suggestions of a media center met with disapproval. "I have a 2-year-old. We don't need a media room," he said, perhaps meaning that his son provided enough entertainment on his own.
"When people spend money on their dream house, it's not just consumption. It's recreation," said Susan Wachter, real estate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. "Housing consumption is consuming home activities."
Housing is not just physical space, she said, but access to activities in a convenient setting where families can participate in those activities together.
James Croft, who lives in Great Falls, Va., and has a second home in Midway, Utah, had a similar vision.
"I can tell you right away about my dream house in Utah," said Croft, who founded the Mortgage Asset Research Institute. "It has nine bedrooms, six baths and a bunk room that sleeps a dozen grandchildren." Snowskiing, waterskiing, golf, hiking and tennis are available in the immediate area, he said.
"We call it the kid trap," Croft said. It has every feature Croft and his wife could come up with "to trap our kids into coming to visit," he said. "We built it from the ground up about two years ago."
Croft's approach is not unusual, a luxury real estate agent said.
"People with second homes often make the second home very pleasing to fit their children's and grandchildren's interests," said Barbara Candee, vice president and Sotheby's International Realty Director at Daniel Gale Real Estate's Locust Valley, N.Y., office.
"Some of the luxury homes today more than previously are building indoor pools, personal gymnasiums. Things you can do with your family, as well as extended families, grandparents," Candee said.
Not everyone is intent on spending time with children or grandchildren, however.
"My dream house would be a dome house in the Sierras," said Robert Yates of Berkeley, Calif. "Lots of rooms so friends could come to visit, a deck, a pool and a clothing-optional environment."
Deniene Erickson-Yuen was a bit more willing to live large.
"My dream house would be on the beach in Maui, so I could take in those amazing sunsets and capture the breeze," she said.
Her dream house would have an outdoor kitchen and "one of those dark tiled pools that looks like it disappears into the horizon."
Making up for her less assuming compatriots, Amika Antoniades-Rao was more imaginative – or perhaps more honest.
Her dream house has an Olympic-sized swimming pool with Greek columns and statues, a circular foyer with a huge Swarovski crystal chandelier, a kitchen with two islands and two dishwashers, a huge bedroom with a fireplace, a movie room and a plasma TV in every room.
Features like these are not unusual in the luxury house of today, experts say.
Though she was willing to admit to some fairly lavish fantasies, Antoniades-Rao didn't forget her family.
She said she'd like a home gym with a couple of treadmills, "so my hubby and I could work out together," and one more gym – this one for her two pugs, complete with doggie treadmills so they, too, could stay in shape.
Copyright Inman News. Used with permission.